Is climate change only a long-term risk?

No. The operational environment has already changed. While the long-term security risks of climate change are projected to be very severe, climate change is already having an impact on security. According to NASA, “the globe is warming at a faster rate than it ever has before.” The U.S. Department of Defense’s 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap notes that climate change poses “immediate risks to national security,” including current threats to coastal military installations. A 2011 study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed that climate change was likely responsible for the significant decline in winter precipitation across the Middle East and the Mediterranean from 1971-2010. Significant Arctic ice melt is already changing the geopolitical landscape of the High North. The IPCC 5th Assessment Report’s Human Security chapter highlights the fact that climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflict. In short, the effects of climate change on security are already with us, and must be managed.

Read more:

2015: National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate, U.S. Department of Defense
2014: Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, U.S. Department of Defense
2014: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability: IPCC Working Group II Contribution to AR5
2013: The Arab Spring and Climate Change. Werrell, C. and Femia, F. Center for Climate and Security, CAP, The Stimson Center.
2012: DNI Intelligence Community Assessment, “Global Water Security”
2012: Climate Extremes: Recent Trends With Implications for National Security, Harvard University
2012: Climate Change & International Security: The Arctic as a Bellwether. Huebert, R. et al., Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)
2012: Special Issue: Climate Change and Conflict. Journal of Peace Research.